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Editorial: Duncan warming centre proposal sure to be controverial

Host of considerations for proposed site in community centre parking lot
A proposal would see a portion of the Cowichan Community Centre parking lot become a semi-permanent warming and cooling centre for those who are homeless. (File photo)

This is going to be controversial.

The City of Duncan and Municipality of North Cowichan are proposing to take a portion of the Cowichan Community Centre parking lot and have the Cowichan Housing Association turn it into what’s described as a semi-permanent daytime warming and cooling centre for people in the area who are homeless.

Finding a place for anything to do with those who are homeless is a quagmire of not in my backyard and legitimate concerns of neighbours.

So let’s start with what we think of as the least of the probable objections: loss of parking. There’s no doubt that the parking lot in question is often jammed full when there are events at the community centre, arena and aquatic centre.

However, we hope that residents in the Cowichan Valley would be able to set aside their concerns over their parking convenience when faced with people’s health — even their very lives at stake.

Just before Christmas a man experiencing homelessness died outdoors in frigid overnight temperatures. And while it’s believed he likely died of a drug overdose, and at night, it’s notable that there was no emergency cold weather shelter open that night where he could have taken refuge.

The proposed centre wouldn’t solve this problem, but would provide people somewhere to go during the day when conditions are dire. It’s also a great opportunity for those who are homeless to access services that could eventually lead them away from a life on the street.

The parking lot is also situated across the street from Vancouver Island University, the new Cowichan Secondary School, near the Clements Centre, and a number of homes.

There’s no doubt that facilities for those experiencing homelessness often bring some negative things with them, including open drug use and other anti-social behaviours, as a portion of those who use the facilities are troubled.

Parents of students at Quamichan and Cowichan Secondary have long voiced serious concerns about what their kids are exposed to around Warmland Shelter on Beverly Street and the overdose prevention site and Wellness and Recovery Centre on York Road.

These are not concerns that can be shrugged off.

On the other side there is really just one consideration that matters: we need a warming centre. It is the very least we can provide for people without a place to go. It can be the first step towards getting these people off the streets permanently. And there will never be a perfect location.